Monday, March 24, 2008

Jesus face to face

Yesterday, I preached the marvelous miracle of Jesus' resurrection. When the women went to the tomb on Easter morning, an angel told them that Jesus had risen, that He was going ahead of them into Galilee and there "they would see Him" [Matthew 28:7]. Indeed, the Apostle Paul confirms that Jesus "appeared" to Peter, James, the apostles, himself and more than 500 others [1 Corinthians 15:3-8]. This "appearance" was more than just an apparition. Jesus was truly alive. Two thousand years later, people still hope to see Jesus face to face. Here are two videos of several sightings...

Jesus Video #1
Jesus Video #2

Saturday, March 22, 2008

the Father's will to crush the Son

Last night we experienced a somber Good Friday service at Pantego Bible Church. The readings, the music, the "portraits of the Passion" were incredible. I preached from Matthew 27:43. While Jesus was being crucified, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law hurled insults at Jesus. You get the sense that each was digging deeper than the last to see if they could cut deeper than the rest. Suddenly, one of the bystanders yelled up at Jesus, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if He wants Him, for He said, ‘I am the Son of God'."

Interesting thought...Let God rescue Him now if He wants Him. Certainly the Father loves the Son, right? At Jesus' baptism, the heavens opened up and a voice said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” [Matthew 17:5]. Several times in Jesus' ministry, He said "The Father loves the Son." There's no question that the Father in heaven loved the Son that He sent. God loved His Son. No doubt, He wanted His Son.

So, where was the Father when the Son was being crucified?

Each of my children has had the experience of being bullied at school. I don't think they come from weak stock; It's just a fact of life. When they tell their account of being pushed, verbally attacked or slighted, my fatherly instinct engages. I want to sign up to be a school volunteer so I can find the schoolyard bully and have a private conversation with him or her in the broom closet at recess. It's in my nature to protect my children. Sure, I've unintentionally hurt them through my words, neglect or rough house wrestling in the living room floor. But, I would never choose to harm them. They are my children whom I love.

So, where was the Father when the Son was being crucified? What of God's fatherly instinct to save His Son?

The answer comes in Isaiah 53. We should really read the whole passage to appreciate its message. But, verses 4-6 are particularly helpful to the question at hand:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Notice that Christ was "stricken by God" and "pierced for our transgressions" and "the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." That sounds like the Father was a part of the Calvary crucifixion! Indeed, it's true. Verse 10 confirms it: "it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer." It was God's plan, God's prescription, God's delight. It was the will of the Father to crush the Son.

Such a thought is so foreign to our parental predisposition that we are tempted to think so hard on the matter in order to change our theology. What does Isaiah mean that "it was the Lord's will to crush him?!" That can't be so. I must rescue the Father from this apparent accusation for the Father can't intend to injure the Son!
I recently read the following excerpt from one writer's attempt to protect the dignity of God in the death of Jesus:

The fact is: the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed [as the doctrine of penal substitution makes it out to be]. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement 'God is love'. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil. [from The Lost Message of Jesus by Steve Chalke].

What Chalke is saying is this: If Jesus had to die for someone else's sin, that would amount to "cosmic child abuse" on His Father's part. Not only that, it would violate Jesus' own command to love. So, to take God off the hook, let's pretend that Jesus lived and died to teach us about commitment and life and suffering and perseverance. Let's pretend that it was an accident. Let's pretend that God was caught off guard--minding the store in some other place on the planet and could not rescue His Son. Moreover, let's not worry about the unaddressed problem of sin if Jesus simply died as a martyr. And, as we do, we can throw away the portions of Scripture that contradict our theory--passages that say such things as "it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer."

Truth is, for Christ to die for anything less than the glory of God and the redemption of humankind would be child abuse! And, the greatest act of love is shown in the Savior's death for unworthy people. John writes, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." [By the way, this affirms the doctrine of penal substitution that Chalke prefers not to talk about]

Jesus didn’t live and die just to show us how to love, win over Satan and follow hard after God. Rather, the only way that God could uphold His holiness and work out His redemptive purposes was for a perfect sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the world to bridge the gap between sinners and God. And, God’s commitment to His own glory was so great, and His love for us so deep, that it was the Father’s will to crush the Son. That's what makes the cross wonderful and Good Friday "good."

Friday, March 21, 2008

why I could never be president

Please don't write me and give me your reasons why I should never run for President of the United States. My mailbox couldn't handle all the responses.

I know myself well enough to believe that my campaign wouldn't survive the scrutiny of prying eyes for a day. I mean, I stole a quarter from my best friend's room when I was in 6th grade (I put it back the next day). I'm sure I haven't appropriately credited every direct quote in every school paper I've ever written. Even this last week, I took my boys to the Fort Worth Auto Show and walked into the Convention Center without paying admisison (it was the last hour of the event and ticket booths were shut down). My election run would be shut down in seconds.

The morning paper once again reported on the details of the front runners' lives. Candidates have to defend their religious beliefs, which charities they support, why they've traveled out of the country 20 years ago and whether they wear boxers or briefs. Not only that, their spouses, children, neighbors and pastors are subject to investigation [which means that none of you reading this blog may ever run for President either...].

Two truths come to mind. First, I live Coram Deo. Literally, "Before the face of God." Nothing in my life has ever escaped the scrutiny of the Divine. God saw me take the quarter. He knows what I'm about the write, even before my fingers type the words. He can uncover more dirt than the best undercover reporter. It is far more sobering to live before the All-knowing, Ever-conscious God than it is before the prying media and public.

Second, all is forgotten. God remembers everything and forgets it all [see Psalm 103:12]. The cross removes the guilt of my sin. And, the Easter resurrection assures me that the past doesn't jeapordize the new life that I live today and forever. This spiritual reality would never satisfy voters, but it gratifies my soul to know that, while I could never be President, I do get to be forgiven and loved by the One who already elected me to be His child.

Monday, March 10, 2008

what makes my heart beat

I got my hand slapped an anonymous, well-intentioned reader. "When are you going to update your blog?" I was asked. Twenty days--the longest span of non-writing. Forgive me all of my fans. Both of you.

But, I have to tell you what makes my heart beat faster. First, I have been teaching a Spiritual Formation Institute class at our church on the the Bible Basics: Understanding Your Bible From Genesis to Maps. This Wednesday is our last of 5 classes. I have not only enjoyed teaching, but I have been amazed at how my 50 attendees have retained what they have been learning. My goal has been to help maturing disciples gain a greater confidence in the story of Scripture. And, each week, my heart has raced with the eagerness of everyone attending.

Second, my heart beat last Sunday with stories of life-transformation. More than 40 people were baptized at two services. What a thrill to have people on their feet worshipping God and crowds gather at the front of the platform to celebrate the step of faith of family and friends in community. The water was cold, but the Spirit of God was on fire among His people. Awesome!

Third, our living church makes my heart beat. More and more people are finding Pantego Bible Church and then finding incredible communities where they live. The stories of life-change abound. And, especially in the last several months, I have been thrilled to see people accept the challenge to find a place to Belong, a place to Become and a place Beyond (see I really get excited when the people of God take their spiritual life seriously, placing themselves in line with God's Holy Spirit, so that they can be changed by God to change their world!